Rural Cancer Control Research

Rural Cancer Control


Evidence has shown that rural communities in the United States face disadvantages compared with urban areas, including higher poverty rates, lower educational attainment, and lack of access to health services. Populations living in rural areas have higher average death rates for all cancer sites combined, compared to populations in urban counties. Additionally, rural counties have higher incidence and death rates for cancers associated with smoking (e.g., lung and laryngeal cancers) and higher rates of incidence of cancers that can be prevented by screening (i.e., colorectal and cervical cancers).

Some of the higher incidence and mortality rates for cancer can be attributed to barriers in accessing health services in rural areas. Research has also shown that some of these cancer disparities relate to financial barriers (e.g., no insurance or insufficient insurance coverage), transportation issues, and lack of preventive and screening services. There are also rural-urban differences in health behaviors that are associated with cancer, including higher rates of tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and obesity, and less physical activity, less-frequent adoption of sun safety measures, and lower HPV vaccination rates in rural compared to urban areas.

Currently, DCCPS has few funded projects focused specifically on rural populations. This long-standing public health challenge calls for sustained support for research along the entire cancer control continuum. We also need to better understand the various definitions of the term “rural” and their uses in health research – and specifically for cancer control. Focused research initiatives would provide the groundwork to develop and implement cancer control programs that are sustainable in these communities across the United States. In recognition of this need and to inform NCI’s efforts to better address cancer disparities in rural communities, DCCPS staff are working closely with our agency partners and a wide variety of experts to analyze the current evidence and scale up our research efforts in rural cancer control.


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